Last summer, I had the privilege to work with the amazing staff and faculty members of the Young Artist Summer Program at Curtis Summerfest. It was the first time for YASP to hold a percussion audition, so I was excited and nervous with no expectations. We accepted four talented high school students from Philadelphia, North Carolina, Texas, and Taiwan. What an amazing experience it was to get to teach them and share what I’ve learned from my teachers here at Curtis.
Since this was the first year the program held auditions for percussion, my percussion duo partner -Garrett Arney- and I tried to include many things in the program, all things that we wish we knew at their age.
In addition to YASP’s daily choir, theory class, and orchestra rehearsals, percussion students spent most of their time rehearsing with their colleagues, trying to figure out how to work in chamber music groups without a conductor or teachers. For most of high school percussion students, there is a chance to play in an orchestra, take private lessons, and perform some percussion ensemble pieces with a conductor. But, a lot of time, they don’t have many chances to perform chamber music like string players. The reason for that is simply the range of repertoire that exists for percussion. We are still in the process of building substantial repertoire for percussionists alone and with other instrumentalists. At YASP, working on some pieces like Thierry DeMey’s “Table Music” and Paul Lansky’s “Threads”, they got to experience what it is like to create sounds out of non-traditional percussion instruments, organize their set-ups, and perform without a conductor. I believe that the communication and leadership skills that they developed helped them bond as colleagues and made their summer special.
Also, we had all of the composition students come visit the percussion studio a number of times though the three weeks. We gave a lecture on history of percussion writing, and collaborated with them on writing percussion duo pieces on a multi-percussion set-up that Garrett and I came up with.
I graduated from Curtis not so long ago, but it was still refreshing for me to visit the building and perform at Field Concert Hall. The smell of the carpet when you enter the big doors restored my memories, and brought me back to the moment that I entered the door for the first time. Seeing those students with bright eyes and filled with excitement made me reappreciate this place more among my teachers and friends who I spent five years with.
I am certain that the “welcome home” feeling that you get when you go back to Curtis is not the same as other schools. It is the Philadelphia and Curtis magic.
Best regards to all of my Curtis family.
Note from a composer’s perspective:
It’s been a highlight of our composition program every year: a short (and sometimes overnight) assignment to write a minute-long piece for percussionists to play. This is an incredibly fruitful way for young composers to become more familiar writing for these instruments because in the end you learn the most about composing by…composing! The arx duo was so creative to play the pieces through, connected to each other as if a single stream of thought. This is just one wonderful example of the faculty and student collaborations we have in our composition program and throughout the spirit of YASP.
— David Ludwig, Artistic Director
Click on pictures below to enlarge, and the “x” in bottom right corner to close.
arx duo lead YASP Eurhythmics Class